By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A Hollywood man was arrested Thursday on federal charges that he operated a drone which slammed into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter back in September, forcing it to make an emergency landing.

An undated photo of Andrew Hernandez. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, was arrested by FBI agents on one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports.

Authorities say it’s the first criminal case in the nation in which a person has been charged with unsafely operating a drone.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 18, an LAPD helicopter was responding to a burglary call at a Hollywood pharmacy when it was struck by a drone, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.

The collision damaged the chopper’s nose, antenna and bottom cowlings, prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint.

“If the drone had struck the helicopter’s main rotor instead of the fuselage, it could have brought the helicopter down,” the criminal complaint reads.

After striking the chopper, the drone fell to the ground at another residence nearby to Hernandez’s home, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges. It also damaged a vehicle, and pieces of it were found by LAPD officers near the pharmacy.

Investigators reviewed the drone’s camera and SD card to identify Hernandez as its owner.

In late October, FBI agents raided Hernandez’s home, during which he admitted that on the morning of the incident, he had heard approaching sirens and decided to fly the drone “to see what was going on,” prosecutors said.

It’s unclear exactly what time of prison time Hernandez could face if convicted as charged. He is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in downtown L.A. federal court.

Comments (25)
  1. Sam Green says:

    One could argue that the LAPD was likely completely at fault for this accident. It’s my opinion that the LAPD aircraft was flying well below the allowable ceiling.

    Consumer drones usually are flying well below the airspace of police helicopters. If I was this persons attorney, I would be submitting a request for that helicopters altimeter records and go from there.

    PS, Helo’s are pretty robust, and can take big bird strikes and worse. Each years there’s something around 200 bird strikes against helicopters, almost never fatal, & when there is a fatal bird strike, it’s always a medical helo making an emergency descent to the ground.

    I was fortunate to be the flight engineer on a Army CH-47, if that hit a consumer drone, you probably wouldnt even realize it until the next days pre flight.\, or post flight the crew chief was tying down the rotors.

    1. John Campbell says:

      What an Idiot.. A Fool like this is what gives the entire RC Hobby a Bad Name… They should give this guy 20 years to give him time to think about what he was doing. This is why the FAA is coming after everyone who flys Remote Control A/C vs these STUPID IDIOTS who go out with no training, no skills, no brains and interferes with not one Man’d aircraft but Law Enforcement while at work, endangering the life of the Pilot (and possible passengers) as well as many on the ground… It is stupid idiots like this as to why the FAA is requiring us to register with the FAA for no good reason.. The good pilots fly at Sanctioned Fields… Not in Neighbor Hoods and never around live aircraft. RC is limited to 400 Feet. He obviously violated that…. GIVE HIM HARD TIME…

    2. D_LAwless says:

      Wow. Your ignorance is pretty astounding. No wonder you were Army.

      1. Lou says:

        Hey! Don’t blame all Army for one idiot. Pretty sure there are morons in every branch. 🙂

    3. First if all you can fly in the town without PERMIT ,second its write in the Law you can t Fly a drone in the area where first responders answer…..The helicopter of police,Fbi ,Ambulance can fly very low because this is they purpose surveillance ,saving lifes etc.You can let a F..ng MORON with a drone to go over many laws…….Fly the f drone ouside the city in SAFETY area !!!!!!!!

    4. Lou says:

      You are obviously NOT a pilot and have never been one. Otherwise, you would know FAA rules allow helicopters to fly as low as necessary and if it is done safely. Try reading FAR § 91.119.

    5. Lou says:

      What the f–k is an altimeter record? You have no idea what the hell you are talking about. There are no flight recorders on helicopters, dummy.

      1. Sam Green says:

        All modern helicopters have data loggers and GPS plotters to account for speed and altitude for the entire flight. Lots of ignorance with consumer drones, depending on the weight, they may not require it to be registered.

        Until this guy is in court, we won’t know if he purposely flew into the helicopters flight path. My point was the police helicopter may have been flying lower than allowed. I respect the police and sometimes they make mistakes, just like everyone else, but in aviation there is little margin for error.

        Pretty funny so many are knocking my words, someday stuck on stupid will be curable.Until then, ask a pilot how wrong I am. I’m not, so it’ll be a short conversation

  2. Joe says:

    Or numb-nuts should fly his little toy elsewhere.

  3. Robert Frano says:

    Re: “…Or numb-nuts should fly his little toy elsewhere…” {Joe}

    I agree.
    I’m a retired 1st. responder; I carry narcan, (under a new ‘delegated practice’ rule in my state), just like I carried narcan during my paramedic days…
    I frequently look, out the window / walk, out the house to observe, when something is going, on in the neighborhood, but I ALWAYS follow the 1st. Rule: DON”T GET IN THE WAY!

    1. John Campbell says:

      That guy Broke ALOT of rules.. Not just getting in the way…. Hope they give him lots of charges and gives him LOTS and LOTS of time…. And just noticed that the max he can get is 1 year in a Federal Prison.. UGH… 20 would be more suitable.! Hope he also has to pay for the Copter repair… Stupid People continue to surprise me.

  4. Denise Cicely says:

    Stupid is as stupid does. But combining stupid with total unawareness or caring for those around oneself, like drunken driving, firing weapons into the air,shouting fire in a theater to get a laugh, go well beyond acceptable limits. However, if he has no criminal priors, a large fine, thirty days in county, and a record should convince him and others into thinking before doing. Hell, people get less time for manslaughter then the cretins in this comment section are demanding for a man being a fool.

  5. So the FBI raided a guys home to find evidence in an accidental accident caused by negligence and not malicious intent?

    Hitler much?

    1. Jim says:

      Although maybe not malicious intent it was certainly much worse than negligence. This moron said he wanted to see what was going on. Anyone with half a brain would know to keep your silly little toy AWAY from something like that. And what’s with the “Hitler much”? You think that’s fascism? Try looking at anything that blm and antifa are doing….that’s fascism and “Hitler” right there, NOT the FBI investigating something after a situation like this. Try learning history.

  6. Drgem says:

    How about attempted murder charges?

  7. Timothy Harris says:

    Is anything a crime in ca anymore? Except for being a white guy with a job.

  8. Dik Coates says:

    According to the rules, it looks like choppers can fly below the ceiling if done safely… from the damage, it looks like the chopper ran into the drone… maybe they weren’t flying so safely?

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